Meet Bellman, a new French startup that wants to improve residential building management using technology and a fair amount of human interactions. The startup has been co-founded by Antonio Pinto, who previously co-founded TV Time.
“I know this space quite well because I’m the son of a caretaker, so I grew up in the caretaker’s apartment until I was 17,” Pinto told me.
In France, the vast majority of property management of residential buildings is handled by private companies. As co-owners of the hallways, elevator and common space of your building, you get together every few years to decide if you want to work with a third-party company to handle all the pesky tasks that come with property management.
And Bellman wants to replace those companies, as they often have outdated processes, which leads to poor customer satisfaction. Foncia, Citya, Nexity and Immo de France dominate the market. But due to high churn rates, they regularly buy smaller residential property management companies.
“I started having problems myself with my property management company. I sent an email just to say that the elevator wasn’t working and they replied asking me ‘hello, what’s your address?’ ” Pinto said. According to him, a CRM with the name of the co-owners, their email addresses and their building address seemed like a basic feature.
Bellman focuses on two values — responsiveness and transparency. And it starts with a tech platform. The startup has developed a service to help property managers do their job properly. In addition to centralizing information, Bellman hopes to automate some of the most repetitive tasks.
Residential building co-owners regularly receive updates via emails as this is the most direct way to reach them. If you want to download invoices and other paperwork, you can connect to Bellman’s website to see all your documents.
As a full-stack property management company for residential buildings, Bellman has hired in-house property managers. “We have property managers who have five to 10 years of experience,” Pinto said.
Each property manager can manage around 50 buildings. Bellman doesn’t want to compete on price, so it costs as much as a legacy property management contract. You can expect to pay around €20 per apartment per month for a building with 20 apartments for instance. Bellman then acts as the help desk for the building.
But Bellman wants to help its clients save money by renegotiating contracts with partners — elevator maintenance, heating maintenance, cleaning company, water, electricity, insurance, taking care of the garden, etc. There are roughly 40 contracts per building, and legacy property management companies don’t have time for that.
Bellman wants to detect if you’re paying too much for heating for instance. It could be because there’s a broken part in the heating system, and the startup could detect unusual activity.
Finally, the startup also takes care of administrative tasks, such as general meetings or collecting money from co-owners ahead of some construction work.
Bellman is just starting for now. It is currently available in Paris and nearby cities as property managers need to be able to go the building. The startup manages a dozen buildings right now.
But Bellman has already raised $2.2 million (€2 million) from Connect Ventures and around 30 business angels (Xavier Niel/Kima Ventures, Michael Benabou, The Family, Jean-David Blanc, Nicolas Brusson, Nadra Moussalem, Antoine Martin…).
According to the company, there are other European countries with a similar system, such as Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Italy. It could open up some opportunities when it comes to international expansion.